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Saturday 26th May 2018

Inequality in Public Health

25th July 2006

25072006_keytohealth1.jpgIn his fifth annual report On the State of Public Health, Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer, highlighted that there are still wide ranging variations across the country despite the creation of the National Health Service in 1948 and the continuing developments in healthcare.

He particularly focuses on the inequalities existing in

- tonsillectomy among children;
- hysterectomy;
- treatment for people with coronary disease; and
- prescribing patterns.

Sir Liam Donaldson said that "Inappropriate variation runs contrary to the moral contract agreed in 1948 between the NHS and the public - to provide care equitably", adding that the pattern of inequality suggests waste and highlights potential problems in resource allocation and knowledge management.

He also draws attention to:

- Pandemic Influenza and progress of planning within the UK since the publication of the UK Influenza Plan;
- The pressure of organisational change and funding on the delivery of public health;
- Kernicterus - a rare but devastating disease affecting newborn babies;
- Lessons the NHS can learn from the safety processes operated in the airline industry.

In talking about the delivery of public health for the whole population he addressed the importance of protecting the public health infrastructure and budgets in order for this to be achieved. The NHS must not resort to ‘wholesale raiding’ of public health budgets as part of the solution to its financial problems, he added.

Kernicterus is a devastating disease that affects the liver of newborn babies. It is potentially preventable but may be increasing in incidence. Sir Liam said that he "would like to see a national register of kernicterus, education and training programmes for health professionals, and explicit advice for parents on what to look out for when they leave hospital". He asked the National Screening Committee to consider the cost effectiveness of a bilirubin blood test to help identify the risk of kernicterus.

In the report Sir Liam examined the processes operated within the airline industry and the culture of safety from which he said "the NHS has many lessons to learn."

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Article Information

Title: Inequality in Public Health
Author: Sue Knights
Article Id: 564
Date Added: 25th Jul 2006


Inside Government
Health Service Journal

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